Chick-Fil-A’s Brand Image Suffers In Wake Of Family Definition Controversy

chick-fil-a-logoConsumer perception of Chick-Fil-A has dropped significantly in the wake of perceived anti-gay comments made earlier this month by the company’s president, a drop that highlights the risks of corporate entities dipping their feet — or mouths — into sensitive social/political issues.

According to a BrandIndex study by the market research company YouGov, Chick-Fil-A’s index score dropped from 65 on July 16th to 39 on July 25th.

July 16 is the date that Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company is “very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.” Those comments created a controversy that spread across both social media and traditional media, with many accusing the company of being anti-gay and anti-gay marriage. As the chart below shows, the controversy has cost Chick-Fil-A its previously positive brand image among fast-food eaters.


(In the chart, “QSR” stands for quick-service restaurant, the industry name for fast food outlets.)

YouGov says Chick-Fil-A’s “brand health” is now at the lowest level it’s been since August 2010. It was one of the top five fast food chains in the U.S. during the first half of this year, and has never before fallen below 46 points — the average score for fast food restaurants.

In the southern U.S., where Chick-Fil-A has the bulk of its restaurants, its BrandIndex score dropped from 80 to 44. The biggest drop was in the northeast, where the score fell from 76 to 35.

The BrandIndex score can range from 100 to -100. It represents, according to YouGov, “an average of key scores measuring quality, impression, value, reputation, satisfaction and willingness to recommend.”

(tip via NRN)

Related Topics: Branding | Channel: Strategy | Features & Analysis | Statistics: General | Word Of Mouth Marketing


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Marketing Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

Marketing Day:

Get the top marketing stories daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Christopher Franko

    i find this funny as hell

  • Robert Worstell

    Makes you wonder – as all polls – where they got this information and how they computed it. Looks like social media is setting up to deluge them with eating customers tomorrow… If that happens, “branding” surveys be damned.

  • Aa7on

    Yet they are reporting record high sales lol Anyone who is shocked that a Christian owned and operated business that is not open on Sundays doesn’t support gay marriage has something wrong in their head.

  • Leo Pohlman

    I find the hypocrisy
    on this almost humorous.  Amazon’s Founder and Bill Gates both gave large
    sums of money to support same sex marriage and there was barely a whisper from
    the media.  Chick-Fil-A’s executive states his personal beliefs and the
    media explodes on him.  Chick-Fil-A has not done one thing in their
    marketing or hiring that follows their CEO’s beliefs yet the media and
    homosexual groups attacked.  It is sad in America you can believe anything
    except Christianity.  I know one thing, Christians are supporting
    Chick-Fil-A like crazy on social media and I am sure that won’t hurt their
    sales in the short term until this whole thing blows over.

  • ClydeSight Productions

    Chick-Fill-A is looking to expand into the North (Chicago and Boston) where they are very unknown. They needed to get their name on everyone’s lips, and do it cheaply. So rather than spend money of advertising the quality or benefit of their product, they started a controversy and got free publicity by all the screaming on both sides of the issue. 

    Result is that now, people in these cities know what Chick-Fil-A is. They may even give them a try once they get their doors open in these cities. If people like the food, they will buy, if not, they won’t. So Chick-Fil-A has used a smarmy marketing tactic to get a foothold in new territory.

    There’s something awfully slimy about using a controversial subject to get known, and branded in a new area. I believe the plan will backfire, but I am not sure just how yet. Using this tactic (and very few people seem to have caught on to it) isn’t wrong or illegal, it;s just very bad form. But these days, almost everything is very bad form. Sigh.

  • Leo Pohlman

    You would have to be living under a rock to not know of Chick-Fil-A’s national cow marketing campaigns stating “Eat more chicken”.  Chick-Fil-A is plain and simple being targeted for nothing more than “Caught being Christian”.  Quite an offense these days apparently even to the point where we have mayors in towns with high unemployment saying they don’t want their business and jobs in their towns.

  • ChristopherErwinHogan

    “Yet they are reporting record high sales”

    For a single day or two, maybe.  But these fundies can’t afford to eat there EVERY day, so the loss in revenue will not be made up. 

  • ChristopherErwinHogan

    “caught being christian”

    Who gave you the right to decide that hating gay people=Christian?  Did you know there are many Christians as well as people of other faiths who love and accept their gay friends and family members?  Talk about generalizing for your own personal agenda!

  • ChristopherErwinHogan

    Yeah, it’s funny that you folks supporting Chick-Fil-A’s “free speech” were demonizing Starbucks a couple of months ago for SUPPORTING marriage rights.  What is NOT funny is the massive amount of money you are giving to groups that support the torture of gay youth, or killing people who happen to be gay in other countries by patronizing this restaurant.

  • ChristopherErwinHogan

    That’s very Christian of you.LOL

  • ChristopherErwinHogan

    It’s amazing we keep hearing the haters whining about being “silenced.”
    It seems to me they never shut up!

  • AnnoyedinChicago

    I think what Leo Pohlman was trying to say was that speaking out what you believe as a Christian in defense of traditional marriage gets you in trouble.  Not that all Christians are anti-gay. The point is that when other companies support same-sex marriage and put their money there…the media doesn’t make a circus of it.  This backfired on everyone opposed because I saw people at CFA who weren’t Christians who simply think it’s wrong to censor ANYONE for any reason.  After all, it’s that very same freedom that allows people to support same-sex marriage.  Also – the politicians attached themselves to this not to help further equality but to pay lip service to a political agenda.  The city of Chicago could care less about the people who live in it as evidenced by constant gov corruption.  Their brand of equality is that they cheat people equally regardless of sexual orientation.  Sorry – that’s my agenda – I live in Chicago and you know what, Rahm Emanuel doesn’t represent me and the fact that I value freedom of speech FOR ALL.

  • AnnoyedinChicago

    Seems to me everything YOU have said is hateful and negative.  Since when does not agreeing with something make you a hater?  That’s what makes us all individuals.  I’d like everyone to shut up.  I’m tired of hearing both sides personally.  No one is ever going to agree completely on this matter so for the sake of all it’s best to agree to disagree and move on.  One side believes it is their right to live as they believe and one side believes they have the right to live as they please but aren’t going to support redefinition of marriage because of their beliefs.  Where is there ever going to be a “winner” in this debate?  There won’t be.  We’ll all just tear each other to threads.  Even if courts decide to redefine marriage you won’t change that a good deal of the population as evidenced by voter turnout (Christian and non-Christian alike) will not support it.  Case in point – there have been times in my life people didn’t support ways I’ve lived my life but they loved me all the same and I didn’t love them any less for not agreeing.  Hello people.  Enough!

  • AnnoyedinChicago

    But NO ONE was trying to get Starbucks business licenses denied.  You can say you don’t like what a company represents and stop giving them your business as are the rights of anyone who doesn’t support CFA.  By all means – boycott away for what you believe in.  But stopping businesses because of an owners beliefs?  Really?  You don’t have a problem with that?  You think setting a precedent like that won’t bite everyone in the butt at some point?  And quit being inflammatory saying that supporting certain traditional marriage groups support the torture of gay youth etc…  It’s bull cookies and you know it.  

  • TallKatie

    Cities already have long had the right to keep out businesses they feel will be detrimental to the community – that’s how they keep out sex stores and thrift shops out of some areas and limit the number of them.

    And when an owner’s beliefs go so far that he uses the profits to kickstart anti-civil rights legislation, that’s outright abuse.

  • TallKatie

     Marriage is a civil right.  We all deserve civil rights.  I’m sorry you don’t think your rights are worth some hub bub and fight.  I know mine are. 

  • Leo Pohlman

    It is anti-Christian, if you don’t believe it why did the President of the United States hold the same exact view as Cathy and when he says it for pure political reasons no one says a word, a Christian businessman says it and it is front page news all over the country.  I also find it quite ironic that Chick-Fil-A appreciation day results in 2-3 hour lines all day all over the country and it doesn’t even make the news.  Some are predicting it could have been the biggest one day in sales in restaurant sales in USA history.  I have never seen an issue light up my facebook like this one and it has been very lopsided in Chick-Fil-A’s favor. 

  • Leo Pohlman

    Who supports torturing and killing gays besides the Middle East that your gas station is getting their oil from?  Are you telling me that you can’t understand the difference between spending money on activism and actively using marketing to support a cause aren’t a little bit different.  JC Penney put same sex couples in their Mother and Father’s Day ads.  Talk about a company that is out of touch with their customer base.  If you can show me one single marketing piece from Chick-Fil-A supporting traditional marriage then you may have a point.  Otherwise, go back to your obviously one-sided biased way of thinking.    

  • Leo Pohlman

    dream on liberals, there are still some conservatives out there and they have wallets too… go ask the movie industry about that…

  • Leo Pohlman

    marriage is a religious ceremony, if you want to fight for something… go after the politicians who give the tax breaks not the traditions of religion.  Personally, I will side with you on taxation but that is where the truth comes out that this is an agenda to force your views on religion more than any civil right.

  • TallKatie

     The gas station doesn’t use it’s profits to direct torture and kill gays, Chik-fil-a uses it’s profits directly to abuse gay people by legally taking away their civil rights.

      Would you patronize a business that was actively financing taking away your right to marry?  Would you think that your friends and family would?  Or would you shrug your shoulders and tell everyone that they have a right to their opinions.

  • TallKatie

     Nope, it’s not a religious ceremony – it’s a legal process.  You don’t need a religious ceremony to get married and it confers all kinds of advantages – such as taxes and being able to visit your partner in the hospital, being able to see your children after your partner leaves you.

    If this was just a religious thing, those religious people would simply not marry people of the same sex, as they observe all of their religious rules.  They would not expect people of other beliefs to do the same and they would not try to enact laws to do so.

    So basically this is all about bullies trying abuse gays.

  • TallKatie

     You mean the movie industry that mostly shows liberal leaning movies that are incredibly popular?  And that almost every conservative leaning movie has bombed big time?  That industry?

  • Ric Dragon

    For me, the interesting issue is whether a business should endeavor to maintain its founder’s values. In Chick-Fil-A’s case, the founders still own the company – it’s privately held – and they have always held to strong fundamentalist values. That’s why they aren’t open on Sundays!

    If the shareholders wish to hold that their values are critical, and that the company is a bastion of those values, then so-be-it – they need to stick with it. If they feel, on the other hand, that the company needs to adhere to SOME of those values, but perhaps not all, they need to figure out how to choose when their conservative-minded CEO needs to tone it down. 

    I don’t think their mistake is their values, though – it’s the ridiculous gaffes they’ve made (saying the Muppets toys were defective and possibly using a ghost Facebook account). If, in it all, they had simply said, hey, these are our values – we’re sticking with them – they would have still invited the ire of many – but they could have maintained their high ground and weathered the storm.

  • Darr Sandberg

    Which is why Sambo’s still has thousands of restaurants. Oh, no. Sambo’s went from 1100 restaurants, to 1, in about three years, because of the controversy over its racist imagery.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Marketing Land on Twitter @marketingland Like Marketing Land on Facebook Follow Marketing Land on Google+ Subscribe to Our Feed! Join our LinkedIn Group Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Marketing News!

Marketing Day is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!